Jamie Oliver's Food Escapes

First aired on Here and Now (16/11/11)

jamie-oliver-175.jpgChef, author and TV host Jamie Oliver has made cooking his life. From The Naked Chef TV series that put him on the pop culture map to his work advocating for healthier food options in school cafeterias, Oliver has spent countless hours tinkering with recipes, talking to people about food and turning out fabulous meals.

But even one of the world's most famous culinary icons needs inspiration from time to time. Even Oliver needs what he calls a "food escape" -- a time to push away from your degustatory comfort levels and immerse yourself in something new, foreign and exciting.

That's the premise behind his new book Food Escapes: Over 100 Recipes From the Great Food Regions of the World. People in his native Britain have the advantage of being so close to a number of exotic locales and can travel to them relatively affordably. The idea struck him to film a TV series and collect recipes from these regions for a book.

"Obviously it was inspired by being British," Oliver told CBC's Here and Now recently. "I basically took cheap and available flights to get out of this place that's so dark and miserable [due to the recession]...and said basically, 'look, it's cheaper to get to this place than to take the train 150 miles away, and you'll spend less in these cities if you kind of ask the right questions or go to the right places.'"

The resulting recipe collection culls from the food traditions of Marrakesh, Athens, Venice, Andalucia, Stockholm and the Midi Pyrenees region of France. Throughout his journey, Oliver not only learns the techniques behind making some classic dishes, but also the history behind the food and the people who eat it.

As with most of his cookbooks, Oliver aims to provide easy-to-follow, no-fuss recipes to encourage more people to step into the kitchen and rely less on convenience foods. The more he travels the world, the more he sees how universal the act of cooking is, and how people in industrialized societies have perhaps put cooking and chefs "on a pedestal."

Oliver favours a populist approach that gets more people cooking, and enjoying it. "You can pretty much make anything taste good," he said. "But once you start making even a roast chicken or cooking a piece of fish beautifully, and realizing how you get texture and flavour working, then normally what happens then is that they start feeling proud of themselves, and then what normally happens is that they start asking more questions, and then normally what happens is that they go on their own journey. And then through conversations or books or magazines or trips they start cooking more and more stuff."

That kind of culinary exploration is what Oliver hopes to encourage. "I just think that great food should be democratized for everyone," he said. "It's not just about chefs. That's the last thing it's about."

Spaghetti Vongole (recipe from Jamie Oliver's Food Escapes)



    2 1/4 pounds/ 1 kg small clams, scrubbed clean
    A small bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley
    4 cloves garlic
    10 cherry tomatoes
    8 1/2 ounces/ 250 ml white wine

    14 ounces/ 400 g dried spaghetti
    Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
    Extra-virgin olive oil
    1 to 2 dried chiles
    Serving suggestion: Fresh bread.


Put a pan of water on to boil. While that's happening, sort through your cleaned clams and if there are any that aren't tightly closed, give them a sharp tap. If they don't close, throw them away. Put a large pan with a lid on a high heat and let it heat up.

Finely slice the parsley stalks, then put them to one side and roughly chop the leaves. Peel and chop the garlic, quarter the tomatoes and get your wine ready.

Add the pasta to the boiling water with a good pinch of salt and cook according to packet instructions until al dente.

About 5 minutes before your pasta is ready, get ready to start cooking - you'll have to be quick about this, so no mucking about!

Put 4 generous lugs of extra-virgin olive oil into the hot pan and add the garlic, parsley stalks and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Crumble in the dried chile and add the chopped tomatoes. Stir everything around constantly and just as the garlic starts to colour, tip in the clams and pour in the wine. It will splutter and steam, so give everything a good shake and put the lid on the pan.

After about 3 or 4 minutes the clams will start to open, so keep shuffling the pan around until all of them have opened. Take the pan off the heat. Get rid of any clams that haven't opened.

By now your pasta should be just about perfect. Drain and add to the pan of clams along with the parsley leaves and an extra drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. Stir or toss for a further minute or 2 to let the beautiful seashore juices from the clams be absorbed into the pasta. Serve right away.


No sane Italian would eat this dish without some fresh hunks of bread to mop up the juices. Beautiful!

The first time you make this it will be good, but you might find things don't come together exactly at the right time. But don't worry, this dish is all about confidence and the more you make this, the more you'll find the pasta and clams are ready and perfect at the same time. And then it will be great!


Jamie Oliver's Food Escapes

by Jamie Oliver

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From the publisher:

"JAMIE OLIVER began cooking at his parents' pub at age eight; his television and publishing career began in 1999 with the Naked Chef series. Since then, he has changed school dinners in the UK and revolutionized home cooking. His charity, The Jamie Oliver Foundation, operates the Fifteen Restaurant Group, which trains disadvantage young people to become chefs, and the Ministry of Food Centers, which provide communities worldwide with places to learn basic cooking skills. In 2010, Jamie created a cooking course for secondary schools in the UK -- Jamie's Home Cooking Skills. His successful businesses include a chain of restaurants called Jamie's Italian, a range of food and non-food products, and Jamie At Home, a direct sales business."

Read more at Hyperion.

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